National Association for Retarded Children. Its author proclaimed the relationship and importance of the Brown v. the Board of Education decision for handicapped children (p. 8). L. R. Rothstein (1990), a professor of law at the University of Houston agreed and further noted that, “it was Brown v. Board of Education that most forcefully stated the philosophy of integration” (p. 2). She further contended that the movement to educate students with disabilities in the regular classroom, has essentially paralleled the desegregation movement for students of color that was initiated through Brown (Rothstein, 1990).
According to Gardner (1985), Brown “had a profound impact on subsequent legislation and court decisions regarding the handicapped” (p. 33). Rothstein (1990) further noted that following the Brown decision, “application of the principles set forth in the Brown decision to the education of handicapped children became a legal theory in more than thirty separately filed cases throughout the country” (p. 2). The PARC v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Beginning in the 1960’s, “handicapped rights advocates brought the principle of Brown—the bold application of the Constitution’s equal protection clause—to their clients’ cases” (Weiner & Hume, 1987, p.
27). But, according to Weiner and Hume (1987), initial results of this effort were limited, or at best, mixed, until the 1971 PARC decision. PARC was a class action suite filed by the Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Children against the State of Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania school districts (Zelin, 1993). The Pennsylvania statute also allowed for an indefinite postponement of education for any child with mental retardation, who had not attained a mental age of five years by the time they were to begin first grade (Rains, 1998).
In the summer and fall of 1971, the state of Pennsylvania entered into a court approved consent agreement with the plaintiff, the Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Children (PARC) and 13 mentally retarded children of school age, who were representing themselves and the class of all other retarded children of school age in the state (Zelin, 1993). The suit had been brought in January, 1971, against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for the state’s failure to provide access to a free public education for all retarded children.
The defendants included the state secretaries of education and public welfare, the state board of education, and 13 named school districts representing the class of all Pennsylvania’s school districts (PARC v. Commonw. of Pa. , 1971). The suit, heard by a three judge panel in the Eastern Pennsylvania U. S. District Court, specifically questioned public policy as expressed in law and policies and practices which excluded, postponed, or denied free access to public education opportunities to school age mentally retarded children who could benefit from such education.
The order provided that the state could not apply any law which would postpone, terminate, or deny mentally retarded children access to a publicly supported education, including a public school program, tuition, or tuition maintenance, and homebound instruction. By October, 1971, the plaintiff children were to have been reevaluated and placed bin programs, and by September, 1972, all retarded children between the ages of 6 and 21 were to be provided a publicly supported education (PARC v. Commonw. of Pa. , 1971).